‘Work­place ac­ci­dents, ill­nesses should not hap­pen’

Prov­ince sees ‘en­cour­ag­ing im­prove­ments’ in num­ber of deaths, in­juries

The Compass - - THE COMPASS -

Those at­tend­ing Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­monies in Car­bon­ear on April 28 sent a clear and strong mes­sage — work­place ac­ci­dents and ill­nesses should not hap­pen.

Among them was Deb­bie McCarthy, pres­i­dent of the Bac­calieu Trail Dis­trict Labour Coun­cil.

Speak­ing be­fore a gath­er­ing of spe­cial guests, in­clud­ing those di­rectly im­pacted by deaths and in­juries in the work­place, McCarthy stressed that neg­li­gent em­ploy­ers should be held to ac­count for any sit­u­a­tion that places work­ers in an un­safe cir­cum­stance.

“Canada’s Crim­i­nal Code now in­cludes pro­vi­sions that al­low the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of those whose neg­li­gence caused work­place deaths. When a worker is killed or in­jured on the job, that work­place must be treated as a po­ten­tial crime scene,” McCarthy stated.

“How else can we pros­e­cute neg­li­gent em­ploy­ers if ev­i­dence in that work­place is not col­lected to be able pros­e­cute those re­spon­si­ble for the ac­ci­dent?”

Call­ing for ac­tion

Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­monies are held each spring across Canada as a way of bring­ing national at­ten­tion to prob­lems in the work­place, and to call upon gov­ern­ments and em­ploy­ers take ac­tion to put an end to deaths and in­juries in the work­place.

McCarthy said it’s part of an ef­fort to en­sure that lives were not lost in vain. She said ev­ery­one should be “furious” that in 2012 six work­ers lost their lives in the prov­ince in work­place in­ci­dents, and 20 oth­ers suc­cumbed to oc­cu­pa­tional dis­ease.

“Too many mothers, fa­thers, sis­ters, broth­ers, grand­par­ents, friends and co-work­ers are still not com­ing home to their fam­i­lies and friends,” she said.

She said strong pro­vi­sions in laws or col­lec­tive agree­ments or work­place poli­cies are only as ef­fec­tive as the com­mit­ment of those who are tasked to en­force or com­ply with them.

“The Crim­i­nal Code must be used to send a strong sig­nal to neg­li­gent em­ploy­ers who wil­fully place their work­ers in dan­ger,” she added.

“A safe and healthy work­place is not a sweet deal. It’s a right for ev­ery worker.”

It was a mes­sage echoed by Greg Pretty, a di­rec­tor of the in­dus­trial/re­tail/off­shore sec­tor with the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers union (FFAW).

He said the fight for worker health and safety must never cease.

“Once we stop fight­ing, we will quickly go back to where we came from,” he said.

Pretty ref­er­enced the work­place catas­tro­phe in Bangladesh, where hun­dreds of fac­tory gar­ment work­ers died af­ter the nine storey build­ing they were work­ing in col­lapsed.

“The clothes they made was sold around the world and the world should know about th­ese work­ers and the sur­vivors and and we should also fight to en­sure th­ese work­ers see change in their work­places,” he said.

Pretty said work­ers’ rights are un­der at­tack in this prov­ince and else­where, in­clud­ing the right to a safe work­place and a com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem that takes care of in­jured work­ers.

En­cour­ag­ing statis­tics

Mean­while, the provin­cial govern­ment is point­ing to what it calls “en­cour­ag­ing im­prove­ments” in work­place safety.

Ser­vice NL Min­is­ter Nick McGrath, in a state­ment last month to the House of Assem­bly, said the num­ber of work­place in­juries re­sult­ing in lost-time com­pen­sa­tion claims has de­clined to the low­est level ever recorded in our prov­ince. Ad­di­tion­ally, the to­tal num­ber of lost-time work­place in­juries in 2012 was 3,742, the low­est num­ber re­ported in 50 years.

He also pointed to the com­ple­tion of the reg­istry of in­for­ma­tion about for­mer em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tual work­ers of the Baie Verte as­bestos mine that the im­pact of oc­cu­pa­tional dis­ease on the lives of work­ers is be­ing rec­og­nized.

“By work­ing to­gether, em­ploy­ees, em­ploy­ers and govern­ment can build an even stronger safety cul­ture that will re­duce work­place in­juries and deaths,” said the min­is­ter.

Last year, he added, 1,081 po­ten­tial work­place in­juries and deaths were pre­vented through Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety en­force­ment in­ter­ven­tion. Fur­ther­more, over 15,300 un­safe work prac­tices were rec­ti­fied and cor­rected.

edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Sub­mit­ted pho­tos

Those at­tend­ing Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­monies in Car­bon­ear gather for a chat.

Some of the wreaths laid dur­ing Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­monies in Car­bon­ear.

Adrian Pye is shown hold­ing the wreath he pre­sented dur­ing Day of Mourn­ing cer­e­monies in Car­bon­ear on April 28. Adrian laid the wreath in mem­ory of Paul Pike, one of 17 peo­ple who died March 12, 2009 when Cougar he­li­copter Flight 491 crashed in the ocean about 55 kilo­me­tres off the coast of New­found­land.

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